The New York Sun, stirring up speculation of a presidential run by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, includes a quote that shows why such a run would be unlikely to succeed:
Mr. Bloomberg's freewheeling question-and-answer session was peppered with the kind of provocative, blunt talk that could appeal to some voters while alienating others. "It's probably because of our bad educational system, but the percentage of people who believe in creationalism is really scary for a country that's going to have to compete in a world where science and medicine require a better understanding," he said in one such foray.
If by "creationalism" Bloomberg means the idea that the book of Genesis is an accurate description of the origin of life on Earth, then he is right, at least, that a lot of people adhere to it. A 2005 poll by the Pew Research Center found that 42% believe that "humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time." Another 18% believe that "a supreme being guided the evolution of living things for the purpose of creating humans and other life in the form it exists today." Only 26% endorse the view that "humans and other living things have evolved due to natural processes such as natural selection."
It's hard to see how one gets elected president by insulting the religious beliefs of at least 3 in 5 Americans. Of course, one might defend Bloomberg on the ground that he is a courageous truth-teller, unafraid to stand up for an unpopular view. But one would be wrong.
This columnist is among the 26% of Americans who hold a strictly naturalistic view of life's origin. Yet even we find Bloomberg's remark appalling in its arrogance and ignorance. He suggests that anyone who believes in the biblical account of creation is unqualified to do medical research or any other kind of science. This is a complete non sequitur, and it is belied by this story from the Associated Press:
Three-century-old manuscripts by Isaac Newton calculating the exact date of the apocalypse, detailing the precise dimensions of the ancient temple in Jerusalem and interpreting passages of the Bible--exhibited this week for the first time--lay bare the little-known religious intensity of a man many consider history's greatest scientist.
Newton, who died 280 years ago, is known for laying much of the groundwork for modern physics, astronomy, math and optics. But in a new Jerusalem exhibit, he appears as a scholar of deep faith who also found time to write on Jewish law--even penning a few phrases in careful Hebrew letters--and combing the Old Testament's Book of Daniel for clues about the world's end. . . .
In one manuscript from the early 1700s, Newton used the cryptic Book of Daniel to calculate the date for the Apocalypse, reaching the conclusion that the world would end no earlier than 2060.
"It may end later, but I see no reason for its ending sooner," Newton wrote. However, he added, "This I mention not to assert when the time of the end shall be, but to put a stop to the rash conjectures of fanciful men who are frequently predicting the time of the end, and by doing so bring the sacred prophesies into discredit as often as their predictions fail."
The AP notes that the Newton papers, according to the exhibition's curator, "complicate the idea that science is diametrically opposed to religion." No kidding. When Bloomberg endorses that idea, is he really expressing a devotion to science, or just a fashionable urban prejudice against serious Christians? (emphasis mine)
Somebody please tell Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris or whoever the Atheist of the month is. Heck, tell Darryl Dawkins. I don't care.
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